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Initiatives for Supporting the Development of Social Entrepreneurs

Providing Continuing Support for Ashoka's Activities in Japan

To offer solutions to such serious and urgent issues as those relating to human rights, education, healthcare, and the natural environment, social businesses that incorporate these into sustainable businesses and aim to bring about change in society are attracting attention around the world. In Japan as well, which has a range of issues to deal with, such as the implications of the declining birthrate and demographic aging of the population, rising demand for social welfare as well as energy and regional revitalization, expectations of what social businesses can do are rising. However, compared with Europe and the United States, awareness of "social entrepreneurship" in Japan is low, and the business environment for encouraging social businesses is still insufficient in Japan because of the shortage of management know–how and lack of funding and qualified personnel.

To respond to these issues and move forward with the development of social businesses in Japan, Mizuho has provided support for the activities of Ashoka Japan since its founding in 2011. Ashoka Japan is affiliated with Ashoka, an international organization providing support for social entrepreneurs. In addition, Mizuho has accumulated knowledge and know–how into social businesses and is giving consideration to how financial institutions should become involved in these activities.

Message from Mr. Bill Drayton


Bill Drayton
Founder and CEO,
Ashoka-Innovators for the Public

On behalf of Ashoka, I would like to express our deep gratitude for Mizuho's continuous support of Ashoka as an investment in building towards a better Japan. It is with great pleasure that we embark on the next part of our journey together.

Since 2011, Ashoka Japan has been able to:

  • Bring eight prominent Ashoka Fellows, leading social entrepreneurs, to speak to audiences across Japan. They have acted as inspirers, role models, and helped pave the way for citizen changemakers to flourish in Japan.
  • Build a community of 150 young changemakers ("Youth Venturers"), young people generating new solutions for a better future. A Youth Venturer was quoted as saying," Many of my friends are critical about how society is and some are even angry about the contradictions they see. However, hardly anyone takes any action. Ashoka is a place for doers to gather. We feel isolated, but at Ashoka we have a community to belong to and compatriots who can advise us. So when we do something, our friends will say "wow" and start to do something themselves. It is through the experience of seeing a problem, giving oneself permission to seek a solution, and experiencing changemaking firsthand, that social entrepreneurs are built.
  • Elect our first three Ashoka Fellows in East Asia, as exemplars of social innovation globally. While we have reviewed and interviewed hundreds of candidates, we have chosen a select few entrepreneurs who demonstrate a system changing new idea with the potential for national and global scale impact.

Thanks to Mizuho's initial investment in Ashoka, we have built a strong foundation for our work over the past three years. We look forward to accelerating our collective impact going forward.

Ashoka Japan is actively implementing initiatives aimed at furthering the development of social businesses.

To realize a society where "Everyone–Is–A–Change–Maker" can be a reality, Ashoka Japan provides support for encouraging innovation in the public interest in Japan through funding and business support for social entrepreneurs, who institute new frameworks and through "youth ventures," which are initiatives that nurture future innovation. Ashoka Japan also holds "lectures from fellows," and conducts other activities to work to encourage innovation.

Support for Social Entrepreneurs

In fiscal 2013, social entrepreneur Takashi Kawazoe was appointed as an Ashoka Fellow, bringing the total of Ashoka Fellows in Japan to three.

Newly Appointed Fellow in Japan and His Activities

Offering Innovative Services in the Fields of Household Medical Treatment and Preventive Medical Care to Respond to the Issues Posed by the Super–Aged Society


Takashi Kawazoe

Mr. Kawazoe is representative director of Carepro, Inc. This company has completely reconsidered the work of nurses and home healthcare, and, by giving inexperienced nurses proper training, has been able to realize a home nursing service that operates 24 hour a day, 365 days a year. In addition, to deal with issues related to preventive medical care arising from the aging of the population in Japan, the company has established a self–check station to enable individuals to monitor their own health through self–health check services based on inexpensive, quick blood tests.

Youth Ventures

"Youth Ventures" provide the opportunities and environment for young people who have decided to become active in setting up projects and develop ideas for solving and alleviating contradictions in society. These initiatives thereby nurture "changemaker" spirits and help to develop related skills. Ashoka Japan is working to support 750 participants in 150 groups by the end of fiscal 2016, and, as of the end of fiscal 2013, it has supported the activities of 170 participants in 34 groups. In addition, for young people who would like to contribute to the future of Tohoku, Ashoka Japan is implementing its "Ashoka Tohoku Youth Venture program."


Review Meeting of the Youth Venture Panel in Progress

Lectures by Fellows (Empathy Campaign)

Ashoka Japan has invited Ashoka Fellows from around the world who have innovative ideas about how to address social issues and held lecture meetings to introduce their initiatives with the aim of raising the awareness of generating interest in social businesses. These meetings have been well-attended each time. Beginning in fiscal 2013, to promote the development of social businesses and develop the "empathy" that is more and more important in present–day society, fellows who have generated important results related to these themes have been invited, and lecture meetings and dialogues have been held related to empathy. Looking ahead to 2017, many initiatives will begin related to the importance of heightening the understanding of education of the heart in Japan and enhancing capabilities for empathy in Japan.

You can scroll left and right with your finger to view the table contents.

Lecturers Lecture Contents Impressions of the Lectures
Mary Gordon, Founder and President of the Roots of Empathy The importance of "empathy" in child rearing and education in the 21st century Photo
Jill Violette, CEO and Founder of Play works "Let's take bold steps to turn the lunch hour time, when the dangers of bullying and violence lurk in the background, into a happy time." Photo

Continuing to Consider How Financial Institutions Should Be Involved in Promoting Social Businesses

Through its support of Ashoka Japan, Mizuho is accumulating knowledge about social businesses and is supporting the Ashoka Fellow initiatives from a financial perspective.

In addition, Mizuho has instigated a research group related to social businesses as well as conducted research on the business environment and on specific social businesses in Europe and the United States. Going forward, Mizuho will give consideration to what contribution financial institutions should make in promoting social businesses in Japan and in providing support to entrepreneurs.

Voices of Ashoka Fellows

As a result of your appointing me as an Ashoka Senior Fellow, I have been able to increase the awareness of our activities beyond Japan and to the rest of the world. Viewing this appointment as an opportunity, I have been selected for the Social Entrepreneur 2014 award, which is supported by the Swabb Foundation for Social Enterpreneurship. I have been able to have exchanges with persons who have done excellent work in solving a wide range of problems around the world, and, by sharing information, I have been able to learn more from a broad perspective.

MHBK has provided assistance in financing to provide high–quality services to more people through the Social Welfare Foundation SHINKO FUKUSHIKAI, which operates welfare businesses, as well as the Kanto Visit Medical–Examination Network and Nozomi Co., Ltd., which operate medical services businesses. Looking ahead, to respond to the needs of society in the areas of nursing care, childcare, and medical care, we continue to look to you for your support, including proposals related to information about what we can learn from competing companies and M&A.


Masue Katayama
Senior Managing Director of Social Welfare Foundation SHINKO FUKUSHIKAI
Director of the Kanto Visit Medical–Examination Network
Representative Director of Nozomi Co., Ltd.
(Selected as Ashoka Fellow in March 2012)